It’s time for another iPad review mix. This is where we take what the critics say and bring it all together for our readers to get a quick opinion from some of the most notable reviewers in the business. We sort it out into major features of the tablet and see what each reviewer had to say about it.
Let’s take a look at what they think of the new iPad.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): Using the new display is like getting a new eyeglasses prescription — you suddenly realize what you thought looked sharp before wasn’t nearly as sharp as it could be.
David Pogue (New York Times): In principle, that avalanche of pixels (and their increased color saturation) means that photos, videos, maps and text should look jaw-droppingly good — and, in apps that have been rewritten for the new screen, they do. Apple’s own apps, like Photos, Maps and iBooks, are just incredibly sharp and clear.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): If you’re familiar with the experience of switching from the old iPhone display to the 4/4S retina display, the experience of switching to the new iPad display will prove familiar. It is astonishingly good.
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): And if you’re an original iPad or iPad 2 owner… unless you want to upgrade, just avoid looking at this screen.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): Perhaps it’s unfair to say the older iPad screens look “blurry” compared to the new iPad. It’s more along the lines of “fuzzy”. After using the new iPad for an extended period of time then switching back to an iPad 2 (or 1, for that matter), you’ll cringe at the pixelated cloud the appears to surround every app icon. (Interestingly, MG made the same glasses analogy about not realizing how fuzzy things looked until you put on a new pair)
iSmashPhone Verdict: The critics agree. The new iPad has an amazing screen. It’s topped by none. Topolsky put it best by warning users with the old iPad to avoid looking at the new screen if they want to avoid the temptation of an upgrade.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): In my standard battery test, where I play videos back to back with both cellular and Wi-Fi on, and the screen at 75% brightness, the new iPad logged 9 hours and 58 minutes, compared with 10 hours and 9 minutes for the iPad 2. (He goes on to mention that this is still much better than most other tablets he’s tested.)
David Pogue (New York Times): Apple, however, (after talking about 4G battery consumption) was determined to keep the iPad’s battery life unchanged from the last model: nine to 10 hours on a charge. In my all-day nonstop-usage test, it did manage nine hours.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): I’ll leave comprehensive battery life testing to other reviewers, but anecdotally, the iPad 3’s battery life seems indistinguishable from that of the iPad 2, even when using LTE. This alone strikes me as a remarkable engineering accomplishment.
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): As far as the battery life of the new iPad is concerned, I can say that the device pretty much lives up to Apple’s ambitious claims.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): The battery life is said to be the same (10 hours on WiFi, 9 hours using a cellular connection) as the iPad 2. In using it, I’ve found this to be the case. LTE may drain the battery a bit quicker than 3G did, but it’s not noticeably worse. Battery life overall is still excellent.
iSmashPhone Verdict: The battery life remains relatively the same. Mossberg’s tests show that it’s slightly less than the iPad 2, but nothing significantly worse. In fact, he says it still tops other tablets by far.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): The new iPad is just as buttery smooth to use as the iPad 2. Apple beefed up the processor, especially its graphics capabilities.
David Pogue (New York Times): No direct mention.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): Whatever extra RAM is available for use by apps simply makes things feel faster — more tabs open in Safari, more apps open in the background.
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): While there’s not some obvious speed boost in comparison to the previous generation iPad, there’s certainly no stutter, stagger, or delay when using the tablet. Apps opened and closed quickly and without issue, app switching was efficient, and graphically-intensive games played smoothly on the device.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): In terms of speed, the new iPad feels very fast. But the iPad 2 felt very fast. There’s probably a good reason for this: reports have the A5 chip being similar to the new A5X chip. One key difference is in the graphics capabilities. It takes a lot of GPU horsepower to run the Retina display. The A5X’s quad-core graphics are the key there.
iSmashPhone Verdict: The tablet is perhaps a bit snappier than the iPad 2. Probably nothing that will make the difference between someone on the fence about an upgrade, but enough for users to notice a slight change. Most of the added power is for the Retina display.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): On Verizon’s network in Washington and Austin, Texas, I averaged LTE download speeds of over 17 megabits per second, faster than most home wired networks.
David Pogue (New York Times): My Verizon test unit got download speeds ranging from 6 to 29 megabits a second in San Francisco, Boston and New York — in many cases, faster than home cable-modem service.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): My review unit from Apple is an AT&T 4G model with 64 GB of storage. In downtown San Francisco I saw remarkable performance on LTE — easily as fast, perceptually, as a rock-solid Wi-Fi connection.
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): In terms of raw speeds, I saw downloads hit more than 22Mbps, while upstream data topped out around an outrageous 21Mbps — and that was in mid-town Manhattan. Of course, a lot of this depends on your coverage and how many people around you are on the network.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): Yesterday, I clocked the new iPad using LTE at over 40 mbps down and 20 up on Verizon’s network. That’s about twice as fast as my current home cable broadband.
iSmashPhone Verdict: Very good words about this. Most, if not all, agreed that it worked faster than their home networks. A major plus.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): I found this surprisingly accurate.
David Pogue (New York Times): For most people, that’s a huge blessing; typing on glass has never been a joyous activity. The recognition is fast and accurate, at least when you have a strong Internet connection (the transcription is actually performed by faraway servers).
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): No direct mention.
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): Apple has also added its voice dictation (seen first in the iPhone 4S), which is surprisingly fast and accurate. For users who can’t adjust to the virtual keyboard, this may be a happy middle-ground.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): Dictation. Clicking the microphone button on the virtual keyboard allows you to talk rather than type wherever there is a text input box. It works well.
iSmashPhone Verdict: Again, all users said that this was surprisingly accurate, and that it worked very well.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): It’s now a 5-megapixel shooter with improved optics. I loved the photos and videos it took, indoors and out.
David Pogue (New York Times): A 5-megapixel back camera that takes far better photos than the iPad 2 did. (Which isn’t saying much.) You can capture 1080p hi-def videos now, and a stabilization feature lends a hand when yours is shaky or moving.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): Also, the camera has gotten a significant upgrade — but while the new camera is decidedly better than the one in the iPad 2 (and infinitely better than the no-camera in the original iPad), I really doubt there exist more than a handful of people in the world who would upgrade from the iPad 2 to the iPad 3 for the camera alone. (Gruber later calls them “OK” but says they are not “great” or even “good”)
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): That said, if you absolutely must use the camera on the back of the new iPad, it will actually produce pretty favorable results. The auto-focus and face detection work excellently here (though tapping to focus is sometimes impossible due to the size of the thing). Thanks to that improved sensor, pictures you take on the iPad now look relatively respectable, with a depth of field shallow enough to pull off rather artistic looking images.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): Apple included a much, much, much better 5 megapixel five-element lens. It has a ƒ/2.4 aperture and a hybrid infrared filter. I honestly don’t know what half of that stuff means, all I care about is the fact that the images from the new iPad look very good now. There is no flash on the new iPad, but the flash on the iPhone tends to be fairly poor anyway.
iSmashPhone Verdict: This was a bit mixed. All agreed that the new iPad has a much better camera than the iPad 2. However, that’s not saying a lot for this (as Pogue put it) but it’s nice enough to be able to snap some useable photos.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): While the weight gain was noticeable, I didn’t find it a problem even for long reading or video-watching sessions. The extra thickness was barely discernible.
David Pogue (New York Times): Third, it incorporated a fatter, heavier battery. The new iPad is one millimeter thicker, and 1.8 ounces heavier, than the iPad 2. It’s a very slight difference, but fingers used to handling the old iPad will feel it, and that’s too bad.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): 50 grams and six-tenths of a millimeter are minor compromises, but compromises they are, and they betray Apple’s priorities: better to make the iPad slightly thicker and heavier than have battery life slightly suffer. And keep in mind that the new iPad 3 remains far thinner and lighter than the original iPad.
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): Mention of it being slightly heavier and thicker, but that’s about it.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): The new iPad also weighs slightly more than the iPad 2 (1.46 pounds versus 1.36 pounds — for the cellular versions), but the weight difference is basically indistinguishable.
iSmashPhone Verdict: While the weight and thickness change is minimal, it seems that most reviewers said they do feel a difference, however slight.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): No real mention of anything negative, unless you count a bit of extra weight and thickness, and slightly reduced battery life. However, Mossberg said that these were all so minuscule that it really didn’t hurt it, and it was still the best tablet he’s used.
David Pogue (New York Times): Weirdly, though, speech-to-text is the only piece of Siri, Apple’s smart voice-control software, that the new iPad inherits from the iPhone 4S. You don’t get the rest of Siri’s features: the ability to set alarms, send text messages, look up calendar appointments and snag facts from the Web just by asking out loud. That the full Siri isn’t available smacks more of a marketing department holdback than technical limitations.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): No direct mention of anything particularly bad. He says it’s slightly thicker and heavier, which is a compromise, but the tradeoff is maintaining strong battery life. Gruber also says that the camera is just “OK.”
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): it’s impossible not to look like a total nerd when you’re in public snapping pictures with something that is literally the surface size of four point and shoot cameras.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): The downside of this (extra battery capacity) is that I’ve found it takes quite a bit longer to charge the new iPad. As in several hours — you’ll probably want to do it overnight.
One other slight downside which I have to assume is related to either the battery or the LTE functionality is that unlike previous iPad models, the new iPad does get noticeably warm in the lower left corner after prolonged use.
iSmashPhone Verdict: Most reviewers could not find much negative to say. They mentioned (very slightly) shorter battery life, (very slightly) heavier and thicker. Even those weren’t voiced as criticisms, just observations. The camera was said to be just “OK.” The biggest down was brought up by Siegler (the Apple fanboy). He said the charging takes quite a while longer than previous models and that it gets noticeably warm when using LTE.
Walt Mossberg (All Things D): Since it launched in 2010, the iPad has been the best tablet on the planet. With the new, third-generation model, it still holds that crown.
David Pogue (New York Times): If you’re in the market for a tablet, here’s the bright side: For the same price as before, you can now get an updated iPad that’s still better-looking, better integrated and more consistently designed than any of its rivals.
John Gruber (Daring Fireball): The retina display is amazing, everything in the UI feels faster, and the price points remain the same. What’s not to love? It’s that simple.
Josh Topolsky (The Verge): 50 years from now, this product won’t look too out of place.
MG Siegler (TechCrunch): If you don’t yet have an iPad, get the new iPad.
iSmashPhone Verdict: Need we say more?
Are You Surprised?
The truth is that we aren’t surprised anymore. The iPad keeps improving incrementally. This is a slight update to the previous model. We see this work in two ways: 1) You can upgrade every other year, perhaps sell off or hand down the old iPad; 2) You can buy one every year, selling the previous one and using that money to upgrade on the cheap.
We like the iPad.
Read the full reviews below: